‘Pulluvan Paattu' fading into oblivion due to lack of patronage
‘Pulluvan Paattu’, a traditional folk song rendered by the ‘Pulluva’ clan members to worship snake gods, prevalent in Central Kerala, has slipped into oblivion due to lack of patronage.
The ritualistic folk music is sung by the ‘Pulluvas’, a primitive Dravidian group, especially during the Onam festival, as an offering to the Snake Gods. ‘Pulluvan Paattu’ performances were their main source of income, but in recent times many of this community have lost their livelihoods and are forced to take up menial jobs to sustain their lives. However, some of the artists still strive to keep this almost extinct art form from dying, especially in ‘Valluvanadu’ regions of Palakkad and Malappuram districts.
Until recently, it was a common sight in these areas to see families lounging on a coir mat in the courtyard of their houses with devotion, when ‘pulluvan’ and ‘pulluvathi’, the artists, sang devotional songs to the accompaniment of a one stringed violin.
But sadly, for many Keralites who live western style, this pastoral setting is alien now, said Sivaji of Cherppulasery, an enthusiast of this traditional art form.
The ‘pulluvas’ were largely regarded as those who could save others from ill omens. According to ancient people, as the name suggests, the name for these artists originated from a bird
named ‘pullu’ (considered as a bird of omen). The term ‘Pulluvan’ is also believed to have meant ‘a person who predicts from the sound of birds’.
The singers also visit each house in their area and sing songs in order to free the family from the curse of snakes. They would also render songs in serpent temples and snake groves to propitiate the snake Gods. They usually sing songs to the accompaniment of musical instruments like ‘Pulluvan Veena’ (a one-stringed violin), ‘Pulluvan Kudam’ (earthenware pot with a string attached to it) and ‘Thalami’ (bell-metal cymbals) made by the ‘Pulluvar’ themselves.
The ‘Veena’ is made out of a hollow bamboo stick, wood shell and vegetable or brass wire. The ‘Veena’ is played with a small arrow made out of a piece of bamboo. The ‘Kudam’ is made of a pot, with a hole bored into its lower side and covered with calf skin. Two small holes are made on the side where the skin is attached, and a string is tied to it.
According to experts, the waning patronage threatens to cause extinction of the ‘pulluvan pattu’ and other rich folk art forms. The authorities could blame it on the indifference of the masses to rural folk art forms. But the fact is that the hand-to-mouth existence has over the years pushed
them into earning their livelihood through other vocations. They said that something more needs to be done to protect these art forms from extinction.